Making Peace with the Earth

Action and Advocacy for Climate Justice

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Editor(s): 
Grace Ji-Sun Kim
  • Geneva, Switzerland: 
    World Council of Churches
    , February
     2016.
     298 pages.
     $25.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9782825416686.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate agreement makes this ecumenical volume on climate justice especially timely. The World Council of Churches (WCC) has been at the forefront of faith-based climate justice advocacy effort for more than twenty years. The WCC Working Group on Climate Change, of which editor Grace Ji-Sun Kim is a member, holds special standing with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change negotiations, advocating for indigenous voices, future generations, and other marginalized perspectives.

The book's title comes from a 2011 WCC Peace Convocation statement that there can be "no peace on earth without peace with the earth." Authors representing churches from around the world offer local and global perspectives on the urgency of climate justice for global peace, including case studies and theological insights.

Art for the book's cover by Lucy d'Souza-Krone of India depicts the eye of God's care watching over the Earth, symbolized by the four seasons. Her chapter on "Art for Climate Justice" features evocative commentary on the biblical texts upon which she based her exhibit for the 2013 Assembly of the WCC in Busan, South Korea.

Other chapters by activists and theologians give case studies on ways churches and faith-based organizations in Scandinavia, Scotland, Germany, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Korea have responded to climate change at the local level. A most moving chapter by Palestinian Lutheran Simon Awad, director of an environmental education center in Beit Sahour, considers drought and water challenges in light of Israel's military occupation and control of groundwater resources. Equally compelling is the health chapter authored by Greek Orthodox physicians from Russia and Georgia, underscoring the role of medical professionals in preventing climate change's damage to human health. Waterborne parasites, asthma, infectious diseases, and other threats to human health are explored in light of gender and human rights challenges.

Theological chapters draw on the important WCC document "Mission from the Margin," underscoring that there can be no human salvation apart from the Earth: "Humanity cannot be saved alone while the rest of the created world perishes," writes Korean Meehyun Chung in her chapter "Rice as Heaven.”Through the lens of rice, she reimagines traditional Korean Minjung theology in light of climate change. Jea Sophia Oh offers a Korean postcolonial ecofeminist theology of life. Canadian Joy Kennedy call for a "new ethic of home," with fresh insights from Isaac Watt's hymn on Psalm 90, imaging God as "our Eternal Home."

Several chapters lift up the WCC's "Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace" that emerged as a strategy of the 2013 assembly.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a leading voice for the climate crisis as a "kairos" moment, features prominently in several essays. One of the strengths of this volume is the important contribution of Orthodox churches and theologians in climate leadership. Largely missing are Catholic voices, since Roman Catholics are not members of the WCC. In his foreword to the volume, Uruguayan Guillermo Kerber importantly references the impact of Pope Francis's 2015 encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.

Three final chapters incorporate interfaith initiatives from India as well as a call for fossil-fuel divestment by Fletcher Harper of the US- based organization Greenfaith. South African Ernst Conradie concludes the volume with a summary essay.

This is a magnificent volume, wonderfully representative of the "space" the WCC has provided for engendering faith-based climate leadership and advocacy. In light of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I would have liked some attention to reformation themes as a possible theological lens through which to approach climate justice. My only other critique is the absence of an index. Overall, however, I learned much from this volume and commend it to other readers.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Barbara Rossing is professor of New Testament at Lutheran School of Theology of Chicago.

Date of Review: 
September 26, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Grace Ji-Sun Kim received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and is Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion, Indiana, USA. She is author of nine books, the most recent being Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love (Eerdmans, 2015).

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